Here is the next part of My story – my mum’s memories become a bit scattered but I have captured it to the best of my ability. Let’s continue the journey to see where it leads us…
My mum remembers that on the 8th day at sea, A US Navy carrier ship rescued them – they were near Subic Bay, Phillipines. She remembers that someone on the US Navy ship asked if anyone could speak English and as my mum had worked for the US, CPA she just said “Help Us.” The US Navy carrier ship took them in and gave everyone some food and water. Everyone on board the Vietnamese navy ship had to line up to get onto the US Carrier ship so that doctors and helpers could assist you once you were on board. My mum was in a state of distress and left the line because I had fallen gravely ill. The US Officer, pointed his gun at my mum and ordered her back into line. My mum said sat just down crying and said “My baby’s dying”.
The US Officer, hearing my mum speak English, looked at me in her arms and asked my mum “You talk?”. My mum answered “Yes, I can talk.” The officer asked my mum to follow him, he took her to the doctor so he could examine me straight away. My mum feels that if she had stayed in line then she would have lost me. The doctor placed me in the hospital as I was diagnosed with severe diarrhoea.
My mum became the translator for the Vietnamese people and the US army. The captain would ask my mum “You talk, okay?”. My mum would agree and say “Yes, I talk.” The officers handed out canned food (peaches, SPAM, etc) for the refugees to eat. The people would ask my mum if the food was alright to eat, she would look at the pictures on the cans and explain if it contained fruit or meat, etc so they could eat it. They would encourage each other to eat, especially my mum as she found difficulty eating after being near starvation but people encouraged my mum to eat. They said to my mum that she must eat otherwise she would be thrown into the sea! This was based on their experience on board the ship they had been on when they left Vietnam.
At first, my mum said there was some issue with the Philippine Government, they wouldn’t allow the refugees to be brought into the country. My mum wasn’t aware of what the issue(s) were but they were eventually resolved and they were allowed to be brought into the Philippines. *
* I did a bit of research and found this link that details the rescue of the Vietnamese refugees and the reason for the delay in coming to shore:
Once they were allowed to be brought into the Philippines, temporary accommodation was set up for the refugees in the holiday area in Subic Bay, that was used by the Commanders and their families when on leave. My mum said that the Vietnamese refugees felt so lucky to be staying there – to them it was pure luxury and felt like 5-star accommodation compared to what they had just been through! My mum said, thinking back, it was probably basic holiday accommodation – it was clean, comfortable and had all the basics but to them it felt like they were in heaven!
My mum said she remembers having food, being able to watch movies and listen to live music. She said that if you had your own money, then you were able to go to the supermarket that was available there and purchase your own items. My mum had no money, just the clothes and little jewellery she had when she jumped aboard the ship. My mum said she traded her jewellery with the cleaner for food – apples, oranges, noodles. She said she traded her Rolex watch for $5 US dollars! She had no idea of the value of her jewellery. She was just concerned about being able to could purchase food, baby formula and cigarettes for my dad. My mum relayed a funny story about the baby formula she had bought for me. She said that initially she didn’t realise that she needed to mix the formula with water so ended up scooping it in powdered form and feeding it to me!
My mum said that the refugees were sanctioned into different areas and categorised by colour eg Families with young children in red area, families without children in blue area, etc. There were 3 families in each of the holiday homes and refugees were given 3 meals a day as well as clothes while they were staying at the holiday accommodation in Subic Bay *.
* I found this small piece of information regarding the Vietnamese refugees taken in at Subic Bay under the heading Vietnam War, as it became a large processing area for the Vietnamese refugees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Naval_Base_Subic_Bay
So that details part 2 of Our Story, to be continued at another time. A lot changed for my parents & I once we left our birth country, yet there are more changes ahead…